The Best Tips on How to Let Go of Your Favourite Clutter

Updated on May 15, 2018
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana is a frugal DIY addict who is always testing fitness and work-from-home ideas, as well as natural health tips for both humans and pets.

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Hello, I Have a Problem

Maybe you've had it forever. You know, that pebble with the strange patterns. Perhaps, you never read a pile of letters but hoard them because a beloved (now deceased) uncle wrote them. Congratulations, you've discovered your favourite clutter. This special breed can be sneaky because they are not always obvious. How many times did you decimate clutter with a determined dustbin in hand and suddenly something melts your heart? After telling yourself you'd decide about it later, the object survives the cull and moves house with the family a few more times.

Acknowledge Before You Axe

It's time to get clarity on why it can be so hard to let go of stuff. This navel-gazing is unique to every person. Possessions are deeply personal and as such, know your reasons for wanting to let go. Not Oprah Winfrey's or Martha Stewart's. Your own reasons. If they are important enough, they'll carry you through. What about exterminating the spare bedroom's hundred mementos and create an office to start that home business? That's an exciting reason right there. Maybe you don't like a memory attached to a certain object. Think of the heaviness that will be gone once you let go. Reasons can be financial, practical or spiritual.

Snap a Double

Gathering all your reasons is just the start. Consider it the foundation but not the house. Even though your motivations are powerful, letting go of certain items could remain difficult. Here's one novel way to keep something without actually keeping it. Take a photo of the oddly patterned pebble you picked up during your first day of school. Place it in a special folder with your other favourite clutter images. Tell yourself you can look at the photo anytime you feel like heading down memory lane. Then let the actual object go. No seriously, let it go.

This technique is effective because emotions fade faster towards an image than the real thing. When ready, simply delete the photo.

Gather Memories in a Book

What if you cannot let your favourite clutter go because the memories attached to them are very nostalgic? You almost feel like you're throwing away the good experiences along with that old movie ticket or Uncle Bob's thousand letters. However, if you don't want to keep such items because they take up space, then a book can guard those rainbow moments.

Instead of having numerous unwanted objects, why not collect the attached memories in a journal? Take your time to reflect on each item, then capture its story on paper. Make the tale as long or as short as it needs to be. Either way, memories come to their own natural end. One notebook should be enough but even should you complete several, they'll still occupy less space in your home. Again, once you are done, let the item go. Whenever you feel like revisiting a good memory, make a hot brew and read through the journal.

Would You Like Some of This Clutter?

You can give a much loved item away to somebody who will treasure it.
You can give a much loved item away to somebody who will treasure it. | Source

Find a Good Home

Decluttering doesn't mean everything must get thrown away. An unwanted but valuable item could be put up for sale and those without financial clout can be given away. Take Uncle Bob's crate of letters. You don't want to throw them in the trash and financially, they're worthless. Nobody will buy the collection and keep it safe. But what about Uncle Bob's children or siblings? Chances are that one of them would love to have letters written by their lost father and brother.

Treat Yourself Like a Dog

The good way, of course. Just like dogs, the human brain loves rewards. It may sound similar to the part where you need to identify your reasons for wanting to be clutter-free. However, powerful motivations and reasons are the promise of a reward. Usually, at the end of a long declutter session or when you finally let that difficult thing go. However, instant rewards are like tiny cheerleaders urging one towards the finishing line. For example, you want to keep a few of Uncle Bob's letters but sorting through them are painful and time-consuming. Take a moment to define achievable milestones for this goal. It doesn't matter how small they are, the only rule is that they must move the process forward.

Next, identify the rewards. For the milestones, keep the rewards simple and geared towards spoiling yourself. A snack, glass of wine, watching a movie, sleeping in - don't tell yourself decluttering doesn't deserve decadent moments. Getting rid of unwanted stuff is no easy task when it involves emotions or large quantities of clutter.

For example, move Uncle Bob's cache from the garage to somewhere inside the house where it won't get in the way. That calls for a reward. Next, decide how many letters you want to scan a day, which is another small step forward. When you meet the daily quota, do something nice for yourself. Once you are through the whole collection, seal those you want to keep and send the rest to a willing family member. When a major task like this is done, you are welcome to treat yourself to a bigger reward.

Annoy Yourself

That's right. Put your favourite clutter between your work stuff where it doesn't pull its weight.
That's right. Put your favourite clutter between your work stuff where it doesn't pull its weight. | Source

Desensitize the Nostalgia

The biggest hook favourite clutter offers is nostalgia. It can be as threadbare as “I've had this ticket for twenty years,” to the more complex symbolism of lost relationships, bereavement or remarkable achievements. When you decide you are better off without it, another powerful technique is to desensitize yourself towards the object. Luckily, this process takes minimal effort and happens almost by itself. The only thing required of you is to keep the item close - on your desk, the kitchen counter or if it's small enough; inside a pocket or purse. Since it serves no real purpose, the object will get in the way or become boring. Nostalgia dissolves in the presence of irritation or lack of novelty.

Saying Goodbye is Nobody's Business

Keep in mind that decluttering is never a streamlined process. It takes hard decisions, often moving stuff from one place to another and even dealing with other people's negativity. Unhelpful friends or family might declare you a hoarder or a significant other might not support throwing out anything. Shaming and resistance could stall your progress but only if you let your inner critic agree. This step is not a pep talk - it's necessary for effective decluttering. For most of us who must divorce our favourite useless thing, the moment negative feelings arise, procrastination follows. Stay focused on your reasons and don't let anybody rush or slow you down. Progress at your own pace.

Choose the Hour

Actually, ten minutes a day is fine, especially when times are busy. The best way to actually use those minutes is to allocate them the right slot in your schedule.

  • Pick a time when you're less likely to be tired. One might be too fatigued before bed, after lunch or the evening chores
  • Consider the usual times when interference are at a minimum
  • It's fine not to work on this every day. Maybe your best free slot falls on a Sunday afternoon. Use it. Even a weekly stab at decluttering will eventually yield results.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit

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